Know Your Root

879. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

With Tom’s death yesterday I’ve been thinking about legacy. So many people called me today to make sure that I knew of his passing. I’ve had many wonderful and brief conversations with people who knew what Tom meant to me. All of them said, “His passing has left a hole….”

Tom taught me more about the theatre and teaching and story than any other person. He was my great mentor and later my friend. The irony is that I never saw him direct a play (I caught a rehearsal or two) or teach a class. I did, however, spend hours and hours listening to him tell stories. Tom was an amazing storyteller. I spent hours asking him questions. I carry forward his philosophy of working. All of my work in education is sourced in Tom. Every time I stand in front of an audience and tell a story I carry him forward.

He liked to tell this story: When he was a little boy the 90-year old Countess Valencia would visit the ranch each Sunday to have a chat with his grandmother. The Countess was a local girl who’d married a count. They lived on a vast ranch nearby and the count was long dead. Because the Countess was too old to get out of the car, Tom’s grandmother would sit with her in the backseat. They’d have tea and talk. One Sunday, the Countess opened the car door and called Tom over. She asked him to sit in her lap. Tom said she was a little bird and brittle and he was afraid that she would break but he crawled into her lap never-the-less. She said to him, “I want you always to remember what I am about to tell you. This might not seem important to you now but it will later when you are old enough to understand.” She paused and said, “Thomas, you are sitting in the lap of someone who sat in the lap of Abraham Lincoln. He smelled of lilac water and saddle soap.”

He had a lifelong fascination for Abraham Lincoln. He read every book. He even looked a bit like Mr. Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln is not so far in the past. Two long lives stand between him and me.

Tom impacted more people than any other person I’ve since met. If I ever have or will tell you a story, I’ll be introducing you to Tom.

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